The real ‘voter fraud’ Republicans would rather not talk about

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Thaddeus McCotter

WASHINGTON, DC - Republican presidential candidate Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on September 12, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Republican governors and legislatures have pushed voter ID laws in more than two dozen states, and the party has long claimed that “voter fraud” lurks in the shadows of elections won by Democrats. This despite the fact that Republicans pushing voter ID have struggled to come up with actual examples of voter fraud — and in more candid moments, some have admitted the laws are more about trying to elect Mitt Romney than about fraud at all.

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The myth of widespread voter fraud hit a low water mark three years ago, when ACORN, a non-profit that registered mostly poor, largely black voters, was stripped of its federal funding after a false story surfaced accusing the organization of supporting prostitution. But despite the right’s obsession with the idea of voter fraud, the fact is that since 2000, there have been just 10 cases of in-person voter fraud (in which a person shows up at the polls pretending to be someone else, tries to vote in a state they don’t live in, or attempts to vote twice.) In fact, statistics show you are more likely to be struck by lightning than for there to be an instance of voter fraud in any election. But that doesn’t mean election fraud doesn’t exist. But unfortunately for the GOP, the documented cases have largely been among their own.

Here are some of the most recent scandals.

1. “Phantom voters” 

The Republican National Committee has fired a firm used for several election cycles by Republicans in swing states to register voters. From NBC News First Read:

Election officials in six Florida counties are investigating what appears to be “hundreds” of cases of suspected voter fraud by a GOP consulting firm that has been paid nearly $3 million by the Republican National Committee to register Republican voters in five key battleground states, state officials tell NBC.

But the veteran GOP consultant, Nathan Sproul, who runs the firm, strongly defended his company’s conduct, saying it has rigorous “quality controls” and blamed the alleged fraud on the actions of a few “bad apples,” workers who were hired to register Republican voters for $12 an hour and then tried to “cheat the system.”

The allegations of suspected voter fraud committed by Strategic Allied Consulting of Tempe, Arizona spread Thursday to counties throughout Florida. At the same time, the Republican National Committee said it had severed its ties to the firm altogether.

The firm, under the name Lincoln Strategies, received approximately $70,000 from the Mitt Romney campaign last year, according to federal election filings by the Romney campaign. The New York Times reported on Saturday that the number of Florida counties now reporting suspicious voter registrations forms linked to the firm has grown to ten.

By the way, as Joshua Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo.com explains, registering phantom voters isn’t the same as voter fraud, since these non-existent voters will never show up at the polls. But it is fraud, and criminal.

2. Selective registration

This was not the first time Nathan Sproul was accused of having ties to voter/election fraud. Back in 2004, Sproul’s company was accused of sending out canvassers to register people to vote, and then shredding the Democratic registrations, while only turning in those applications that requested registration as a Republican. (Read more about Sproul’s history at ThinkProgress.) And it seems that Sproul’s firm may have modified its one-party registration strategy. Strategic Allied Consulting has been dropped by the Colorado Republican Party after a viral Youtube video emerged showing a young woman who worked for the firm, registering “only Romney” voters at a Safeway supermarket in Denver.